a new friend!
Recently Mr VE&T made a new tennis friend. He's a pretty good tennis player, and there aren't bajillions of people who can play at that level with him. Someone gave him the name of a new player at the club, and she turned out to be a great player who he really enjoys hitting with. One day after practice, while chatting, he found out that she is also a vegan! So of course I got all excited and invited her and her family over -- even though I'd never met any of them! Well, to be fair, Mr VE&T thought she was pretty great and he was pretty sure we'd get along.
It was so fun to welcome them into our home! It was a really lovely evening together with her and her husband and their two awesome kids. The kids were so cute - immediately running around the house, meeting all the pets, playing in the backyard, throwing the ball for the doggies, climbing in and out the doggie door over and over and over! ha ha.
I always enjoy cooking for other people, but I especially love cooking for fellow vegans. When you're a vegan, people don't cook for you very often. Plus, it's just fun to make a special effort and know that it will really be appreciated. So, I had fun thinking of what to make for our new friend. But I also knew that she had two little kids, so I was conscious of trying to make kid-friendly choices in my menu planning. Nothing too unfamiliar or spicy or challenging. For example, I briefly considered pine nut cookies, but decided to go with chocolate chip. ha ha.
vegan cheese platter
For appetizers, I had some sugar snap peas and a platter of little bread toasties and two vegan cheeses: Punk Rawk Original and the Kite Hill Ripened Cheese. I already know how much I love Punk Rawk cheeses (hint: A LOT), but I hadn't tried this cheese from Kite Hill before. The Punk Rawk cheese has a nice strong taste and is soft and spreadable, almost the texture of a thick cream cheese. The Kite Hill cheese really had a proper "rind" and creamy center like some dairy-based cheeses, but the flavor was much more mild. Between the four of us grown-ups, we had 3 who preferred the PR cheese and one who preferred the KH cheese. How cool is it that we have so many choices these days?? So cool.
salad with super good dressing
Our friends brought two nice bottles of wine and a huge, tasty salad. The dressing they made was really, really delicious - super flavorful but not heavy or overpowering. Over dinner, we were discussing cooking methods - and whereas I am a fairly devout recipe follower, our new pals are devout recipe free-stylers! So I can't tell you what recipe he used to make this dressing because I think he made it up! ha ha. I loved those big green olives in the salad. I usually buy black olives, but these were so delicious and plump and beautiful.
we are unsophisticated people who don't even own wine glasses, so on the rare occasions that we do drink wine, we drink it out of juice glasses instead. Ha ha. be warned!
It turns out that they really know a lot about wine (whereas I know next to nothing). They brought along two nice white wines that were really tasty. We had one with dinner, and then we had the Prosecco (fizzy white wine) with dessert. It was fun to have some nice wine with our meal!
I was pretty sure I would like this soup because KZCakes liked it and she and I always seem to agree on foodie things. Except that she likes matcha and I just can't go there.
We decided to be fancy and have each course one at a time, instead of putting everything on the table all at once. That was fun! So after our appetizers and salad, next up was the soup. I've heard good things about the Cauliflower Soup with Pesto and Pasta Shells from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, so I thought I'd give that a go. Plus it seemed like it would be pretty kid-friendly: the cauliflower is hidden by pureeing it into the broth, the soup is full of little pasta shells, and it's got pesto! One of my special tricks is to make a previously untested recipe when company comes over. I love to live dangerously!
I tweaked the recipe a little bit - I roasted half of the called-for cauliflower before hand, and I also used white miso and tamari instead of plain salt -- all for a little extra umami power blast! Happily, I really liked this soup and will definitely make it again. What did our guests think? 2 grown ups and 1 kiddo loved it too (he ate his whole bowl of soup!), but one littlest kiddo didn't even want to give it a try! ha ha. No hard feelings though. I know how important it is to keep putting food on the table even if they don't try it this time around. Someday!
Sauces 'n Love Vegan Pesto
For the pesto in my soup, I used some of this *amazing* vegan pesto from a company called Sauces 'n Love. They actually sent it to me for a review quite a while ago and I've had it saved in my freezer for safe keeping. It is such delicious pesto - and by far the freshest and tastiest store-bought pesto I've ever had. It's super packed with basil and pine nut flavor, just the right amount of saltiness (it's pretty salty, but I like pesto that way), and super high quality olive oil. It looks like they don't have an official website, but this site has some good info about them and their products. They seem to make many sauces that are vegan (and many that aren't). Based on how much I enjoyed this pesto, I would definitely be jazzed to try more of their sauces in the future.
the main course!!
For the main course, I made a big batch of the Italian Stuffed Peppers with Fennel from Vegan Casseroles. This was a great dish to make for company because I could do all the work ahead of time and then just pop 'em in the oven at the right time. Unlike my daring escapade of making a totally-new-to-me soup recipe for company, I had made this recipe several times before. I really love these peppers - the filling is made with rice and TVP and then loads of great spices and seasonings (including crushed fennel seeds!). For the pasta sauce on top, I used half homemade sauce that I had canned up last summer and half Victoria's Vegan Vodka sauce (I love that stuff!). Happily, we had tons of these left over (there were 4 more in another smaller baking dish) - so I gave some to my parents, we had some for dinner again the next night, and I had lunch for a few days too. I love that - make the most of a dinner party with leftovers!!
rowing my pepper boat across the high seas
I was thinking of all sorts of fancy-pants desserts I could make, but I wasn't sure how that would go over with kiddos. I mean, sometimes it's okay to go out of your comfort zone for dinner, but dessert is kinda all about the comfort zone, if you know what I mean. So, I went with chocolate chip cookies and strawberries! For the cookies, I used Jess's recipe for The Ultimate Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from her blog Cupcakes and Kale. I had this recipe bookmarked and was happy to finally give it a go. Holy bonkers!!! These cookies came out so great. I think they are now my favorite chocolate chip cookies ever. Definitely my new go-to. They were so easy and delicious. I even used my homemade vegan butter (recipe from Miyoko's book Homemade Vegan Pantry). I also left the salt flakes off my cookies since I wanted them to be kid-friendly!
dessert buddies dancing out their joy together
And of course, they were indeed very kid-friendly! The littlest kiddo wasn't interested in her soup or stuffed pepper, but was very interested in the cookies and berries! ha ha. After dessert our new pals told us that they've actually totally cut back on sugar since their little one is a picky eater and has been pretty much waiting all day just to eat dessert. Ooops, I was part of the problem! Next time they come over, I'll make a fun dessert that's also naturally sweetened. Fortunately there are lots of great blogs and cookbooks with recipes like that!
It was a really fun night. I really love meeting new people and making new friends. I look forward to getting to know them better and continuing our friendships together!
ps! Congratulations to Anne Callery for winning my Baconish giveaway! I used the random number generator, which picked comment #27. This is pretty fun, because many moons ago, Anne and I worked together! It's fun when the random number generator picks someone who I know in real life. Congrats, Anne, I hope you like the book!